Ratanga Junction was once the most-hyped attraction in the city. Going back two decades, the amusement park saw hundreds of thousands of visitors pass through the gates during its opening weeks. The initial reception for this family-friendly park was stellar – it was a place where every kid wanted to go to, where a ride on the infamous ‘Cobra’ rollercoaster was a luxury reserved for the brave.
Fast forward nearly 20 years later, Ratanga Junction will cease operations – once and for all – in eight months time. What has gone wrong?
The park was acquired by the Rabie Property Group in 2005 and has since traded largely during school holidays and for private functions and corporate events. Long gone are the days when queues would snake around the exterior parking area. Over the years we’ve watched a sad decline of the Western Cape’s biggest theme park, only on rare occasions nowadays will one see Ratanga Junction active when passing by on the N1.
News of the park’s closure has been doing the rounds for several years now, but yesterday it was ultimately confirmed by Rabie that in May 2018 Ratanga Junction would be no more.
So what’s to come in its place? In an exclusive interview, Rabie director John Chapman stated that the property group would “embrace the existing canals, island, and public open space, and include residential apartments, offices, hotels, restaurants and convenience retail”. The update to the space, the creation of a ‘vibrant mixed-use precinct’, would likely take 2-4 years to completion.
When asked about why the amusement park never worked out, he declared that “the oversized facility, lack of consistent demand for a theme park, seasonal weather, expensive maintenance and running costs, as well as the ageing equipment, had all contributed to an unprofitable facility when we acquired it.
“Since then we have downsized the operation, closed the park during off season, added an all-year round conference facility, and managed the theme park so that it now washes itself. However, this is not sufficient to justify its continued existence because rides need to be renewed and revenue cannot support the high capital costs.”
Legendary rides like Monkey Falls, Crocodile Gorge, the Bar-One Bushwacker, Diamond Devil Run – and of course The Cobra – will all be missed. Those furry Ratanga mascots? Probably not so much.
Photography Ratanga Junction